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“Dearest absurd child”

Fry as WildeThe inimitable Mr. Stephen Fry has written an excellent article built around the concept of a letter to his sixteen-year-old self, called Stephen Fry’s letter to himself: Dearest absurd child. It is both personal and universal and well worth the few minutes it will take you to read it. Among other things, his insight into the disadvantages inherent in sexual normalcy is quite interesting. The article published in The Guardian is edited from the original, which was published in the 25th-birthday edition of the UK publication Gay Times, which does not appear to be available to read online. Excerpted from The Guardian article:

I know what you are doing now, young Stephen. It’s early 1973. You are in the library, cross-referencing bibliographies so that you can find more and more examples of queer people in history, art and literature against whom you can hope to validate yourself. Leonardo, Tchaikovsky, Wilde, Barons Corvo and von Gloeden, Robin Maugham, Worsley, “an Englishman”, Jean Genet, Cavafy, Montherlant, Roger Peyrefitte, Mary Renault, Michael Campbell, Michael Davies, Angus Stewart, Gore Vidal, John Rechy, William Burroughs.

So many great spirits really do confirm that hope! It emboldens you to know that such a number of brilliant (if often doomed) souls shared the same impulse and desires as you. I know the index-card waltz of (auto)biographies, poems and novels you are dancing: those same names are still so close to the surface of my mind nearly four decades later. Novels, poetry and the worlds of art and ideas are opening up in front of you almost incidentally. You spend all your time in the library yearning to be told that you are not alone, and an unlooked for side-effect of this just happens to be a real education achieved in a private school designed for philistine bumpkins. Being born queer has given you, by mistake, a fantastic advantage over the rugger-playing ordinaries who surround you. But those rugger-playing ordinaries have souls too. And you should know that. I know you cannot believe it now. They seem so secure, so assured, so blessedly normal. They gave Cuthbert Worsley the Kipling-derived title of his overwhelmingly important (to you) autobiography The Flannelled Fool: “these are the men that have lost their soul/ The flannelled fool at he wicket/ And the muddied oaf at the goal”.

Posted in Arts and Literature, Socio-politics.


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